Might sound kind of funny, when you think about it, but the message is clear — it's not safe to go beyond the boundaries, and if you choose to do so there will be penalties to pay if someone has to come rescue you.
This past weekend, snowboarders in at least two states tested the boundary and lost. Well, they lost their ski passes, but thanks to search and rescue teams, they didn't lose their lives. In both instances, the snowboarders became disoriented — in one case because of fog and in the other because of heavy snowfall that obscured their vision.
I can sympathize. I was skiing one day when the snowfall became so heavy that I couldn't see 20 feet ahead. Fearing that I might nail a tree, I decided to stop for a few minutes and wait until conditions improved before continuing down the slope. I threw on the brakes and skidded to what I thought was a complete stop, and just stood there relaxed. That's when a tree slowly glided past and I realized that I was not stopped after all. In the whiteout conditions, it was virtually impossible for me to have a perfect point of reference with my surrounding. When the tree went past, an interesting thing happened to me — I almost threw up. Something about the difference between what my brain thought was reality, and what was really reality upset the inner ear and my senses went nuts.
I confess all this only to illustrate how easy it is to get lost in the backcountry. Been there; done that. Don't want to do it again.
In both of the snowboard cases, the individuals were able to call for help by using their cell phones. WARNING! That doesn't always work. Much of the backcountry doesn't have cell coverage, so if you get lost there, you're going to stay lost unless you carry some other devices to let people know they need to come and get you. The SPOT Satellite Messenger (www.findmespot.com) or a Personal Locator Beacon (www.acrelectronics.com) are reliable "call for help" devices, but they won't work if you don't have them with you and know how to use them.
My advice is:
- Respect the boundaries, because if you go out and get yourself lost, other lives are going to be put at risk trying to save yours.
- Know your limits and have as much fun as you possibly can within them.
- Carry survival gear so you can stay alive for a few days while working out the solution to your problems.
- Carry equipment that will help get you rescued when you get so far in over your head that you're not going to be able to get out by yourself.